Port Macquarie Sharks might look back on their last-gasp 18-14 Group Three rugby league victory over Old Bar Pirates as a turning point in their season.
The gutsy Sharks had to dig deep for the final 28 minutes at Regional Stadium on Sunday with 12-men after five-eighth Joel Anttilla was sent-off for dissent.
When Pirates front-rower Jared Wooster charged over next to the posts in the 71st minute to give the visitors the lead, the Sharks looked out on their feet.
But then they found something.
It came via the right boot of halfback Brayden Reid who launched a cross-field kick towards the posts in the 77th minute before second-rower Dylan Clark emerged with the footy to put his side back in front for good.
Sharks coach James Kelly admitted his side "probably didn't deserve to win", but showed a lot of character and heart - especially Clark who battled a bout of the flu all game.
"I looked at him at the start of the game and he looked like he should have been in hospital he looked that crook," Kelly said.
"He played the whole 80 minutes and was the best player out there."
The Pirates also fell foul of the referee when co-coach Mick Henry was given a 10-minute stint in the sin bin after he showed dissent midway through the second-half.
Kelly was bemused at the lack of consistency.
"I think it's got to swing both ways," he said.
"If we're getting a bloke sent off for 30 minutes and 10 minutes later they do the same thing, but he can't find the culprit [but puts someone in the sin bin], it's not really fair."
Ill-discipline continues to cause the Sharks coaching staff headaches. Every week they continue to make the same mistakes and fall on the wrong end of the penalty count.
Hooker Mitch Wilbow gave away a penalty in possession in the first half when he showed dissent, but he wasn't alone.
Several penalties were awarded throughout the game against both teams for similar offences.
"We started the game the best we could and after 25 minutes only had two penalties which is something we've been working hard on for the last couple of weeks," Kelly said.
They then finished the first 40 minutes having given away eight penalties.
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"As soon as we got a bit comfortable in the game we thought it was going to come easy so we went back to doing the things we do wrong and we do them badly," Kelly said.
The Pirates had the better of the try scoring opportunities and just couldn't ice them.
On one occasion Michael Bailey couldn't quite latch onto a Jordan Worboys grubber-kick into the in-goal which went over the touch line.
Second-rower Thomas Dooker then bombed a certain try in the 55th minute when he elected to pass instead of going for the corner.
Pirates captain-coach Worboys lamented two points that got away after they just couldn't ice their opportunities.
"Now it's down to a top four it's going to get very close towards the end of the year and if you're giving up two points they can come back and prove very costly," he said.
"It felt like one that got away and if we got away with it I'm sure Port might feel the same.
"From our point of view they're two very valuable points that we didn't take away and hopefully it doesn't come back to bite us."
Worboys said the new Group Three edict surrounding audible swearing at any fixture would take some getting used to.
"They had one sent off for a large portion of the second half, but they were down to 12 men so there's no excuses from our end," he said.
"It is a bit of a grey area."
The Pirates' attitude and fitness weren't quite up to standard which allowed the Sharks to make some inroads through the middle of the field.
It led to Dylan Adams' second-half try.
"They scored a couple of tries through our middle just being lazy so it's hard to decipher right now, but it feels like one that got away for sure," Worboys said.
Port Macquarie have now won two of their last three matches despite being nowhere near their best while the Pirates have lost two of their last three.
Sharks coach James Kelly said his side still has plenty of room for improvement, but it was encouraging that they were finding ways to win.
"I'm not worried because we've got so much improvement and we're playing bad football but we're still hanging in there," he said.
"That's our fourth win and we've been playing bad footy so we've got to peak at the right end of the year and that's not the time yet."
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